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This is how Softbank wants to roll out automated e


Softbank founder Masayoshi Son was counted, but the soaring tech companies gave him new capital. Now he's investing billions in specialized robotics companies.

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Bet a lot of money on e-commerce optimizers with Softbank:

Japan's tech investor

Masayoshi Son

Photo: Kim Kyung Hoon / REUTERS


Japan's tech venture capitalist Softbank was just as invested as it was in the now insolvent Greensill Bank - and is now worried about its money.

Softbank's stake in the office space broker Wework, which is now aiming for the second attempt at the stock exchange, has also proven to be less than lucrative.

Such failures are the publicly discussed, if not exactly pleasant, part of the Softbank tech portfolio.

But Softbanks Vision Funds can apparently afford bankruptcies of this kind - with 100 billion dollars, it is the largest start-up financier in the world.

At the beginning of last year, it seemed as if Softbank boss

Masayoshi Son

(63) had lost his gigantic tech bet: In November 2019, he called for debt reduction - in a sudden U-turn to his previous growth-at-any-price credo.

To help stabilize the company financially, Softbank announced in mid-March 2020 that it would sell $ 41 billion in assets.

Since then, however, the tide has turned again for the venture capital giant.

The coronavirus pandemic has given online services a powerful boost, the value of many Softbank investments has risen significantly, Softbank is making profits again - and CEO Son has regained his aggressiveness.

Most recently, Softbank attracted attention with two sensational deals: With the German battery manufacturer Varta, Softbank Robotics Europe, a subsidiary of the Japanese company, wants to launch a battery platform for robot applications.

Softbank is now also getting into the Norwegian warehouse automation company Autostore on a large scale: As it became known yesterday, Japan's tech investor giant is buying a 40 percent stake in Autostore for $ 2.8 billion.

To this end, Softbank is taking over Autostore shares from US financial investor Thomas H. Lee and Swedish venture capitalist EQT.

Autostore is valued at $ 7.7 billion as a result of the deal, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The US financial investor "remains the largest shareholder in Autostore.

Autostore's approach is "a fundamental technology that enables fast and cost-effective logistics for companies worldwide," said Son in a statement.

The Norwegian company uses robots to maximize storage space in department stores.

20,000 Autostore robots are in use in warehouses around the world.

Customers include Siemens, but also Japan's electronics company Panasonic and the US retail chain Best Buy.

According to the report of the business newspaper, analysts say the sheer sum of the Softbank investment stands out.

However, fueled by the boom in Spac IPOs, a lot of liquidity is currently available for companies whose products are already heading towards market maturity.

Automation instead of humanization

The commitment fits into the picture: Softbank and its venture capital arm Vision Funds have been investing quite aggressively in robotics technology for a long time.

Softbank's robotics subsidiary invented a humanoid robot called "Pepper".

The robot manufacturer Boston Dynamics was also part of the Softbank portfolio for a long time.

The US company developed, among other things, robots for the US military that can move independently in rough terrain.

Now Softbank founder Son seems to be changing direction.

He sold Boston Dynamics to the Korean automaker Hyundai last year.

The new focus is more on companies that use robots to automate logistics processes and supply chains.

Softbank joined Berkshire Gray in 2019.

The US company focuses on robots for department stores.

Softbanks Vision Fund has also invested in the logistics company Flock Freight and the Indian logistics start-up Delhivery.

A few other high-profile holdings from the Softbank realm are also likely to be interested in their technology: After all, Softbank and its fund also have stakes in the Chinese retail giant Alibaba and the South Korean e-commerce company Coupang.


Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2021-04-07

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